I have a site that will be used by people in various time zones. On this site, there is a table of information, with one column containing a date and time. To circumvent time zone confusion, I'm going to be displaying all dates in UTC. I want to convey this to the user by tacking it on to the label, in parentheses.

So the question boils down to should I use

Last Accessed (UTC)


Last Accessed (GMT)

Or does it even matter as long as I'm consistent across my site?

2 Answers 2


UTC became the official standard back in 1972. It's also based on atomic clocks and takes into account the necessary leap seconds every few years. GMT is a time zone. I'd always go with UTC, though, as you mention, as long as you're consistent ...

Note: StackExchange goes with UTC.

  • Thanks! I think the critical piece is that GMT is a time zone. Picking that over UTC could seem like an arbitrary time zone pick, whereas UTC makes it clear that I'm choosing a universal standard. Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 20:23

Have you asked what your users expect to see?

For example, I would say that it is ok for the date to be stored in UTC in the database, but your users might expect to see the time stamps based on their time zone (which might be taken from their user profile page).

  • It could depend on the user base and how the time is used. Certainly you could guess the user's time zone from the browser, or assume the user's time zone from a user profile page as you suggest, but sometimes, looking at a list of last updated dates on items modified by users in different time zones it is helpful to display a consistent time zone, such as for server maintenance windows, etc. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:48

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